On Monday, the Panthers made a major market-shaking announcement. Owner Vinnie Viola and GM Dale Tallon officially hired three-time Stanley Cup champion head coach Joel Quenneville.
Fumbling at my keyboard, hindered by fat, arthritic fingers and uncooperative spellcheck, I needed to express what the landscape is now in South Florida following the announcement of the hiring of "Coach Q", that sent the hockey world into the Twitter/blog ozone-piercing stratosphere.
Never before in the new "modern age" NHL has the coaching position garnered the attention, scrutiny, and organizational importance as we are witnessing these last few years. How will the rest of the NHL open coaching positions, league wide, be deeply affected by Coach Q's Sunrise podium introduction?
The NHL coaching trend over recent years has favored non-NHL, yet successful young up-and-coming bench bosses among teams trying to take the next step like the Tampa Bay Lightning's Jon Cooper, The Dallas Stars' Jim Montgomery, Travis Green with the Vancouver Canucks, Dave Hakstol with the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers' David Quinn and even Florida's hiring of Bob Boughner, who was a class act during his tenure in South Florida and has a bright future in the league.
The reason for this recent 'youth movement' at the head coaching position really does mirror the state of the NHL as the game continues to gravitate towards younger, faster, and more skill at the offensive positions. But with that said, more experienced NHL Stanley Cup playoff tested Skippers have found success in righting the ship of several teams over the past few years as well. Look no further than two coaches in the Atlantic Division, Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Claude Julien of the Montreal Canadiens.
Add Quenneville in Florida and throw in 2018 Stanley Cup winning Barry Trotz guiding the playoff participating New York Islanders (not to mention two-time cup winner Mike Sullivan with the Pittsburgh Penguins), you have enough Stanley Cup ring bling in the East to blind the world's best referee.
Q's attraction to the Panthers was well documented. The parallels in Chicago when then-GM Dale Tallon turned to Coach Q to take over the Chicago Blackhawks bench, thus igniting young superstars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and other early/mid-20's impact players to three Stanley Cups in six years is eerily similar to the Panthers position.
Under Quenneville, the Panthers young core of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Aaron Ekblad, Mike Matheson and co., will have to be ready to take the next step, which is Stanley Cup playoff contention.
A head coach with the pedigree of a Joel Quenneville brings instant presence, accountability, and confidence. In my 24 years with the Panthers, never have I sensed this level of optimism from fans in South Florida going into an off-season.
Like the final chapter in that classic spy novel (which I never bothered to read), a single character can change the storyline dramatically.
Welcome to Pantherland Coach Quenneville.
See you at the rink…
- Red Deer